U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow on mental health during the pandemic, federal funding for Michigan health centers, hazard pay & internet access for rural communities

Nation & World News

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) — When it comes to battling the COVID-19 pandemic and recovering from it, the conversation includes dollar signs.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow discussed what still needs to be done for essential workers and health centers across the Upper Peninsula.

“Right now, we are in a situation without enough testing, where everybody stays home, instead of the person who has the virus,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

“So what we need to do is get to the point where the testing is done and folks feel confident that if you test positive, you are the one staying home and everyone else is able to go to work and go about their day, so this funding is to help health centers do that and in addition to that, we’ve been able to bring in over a million and a half dollars to the Upper Peninsula for health centers medical care, which is absolutely critical right now.”

Senator Stabenow wants to ensure that Michigan health care facilities will have the proper funding to get past this pandemic. But the Senator knows with everything going on, it won’t be overnight.

“Well, unfortunately, we are not through this crisis, either the health crisis or the economic crisis, so we need to continue to do more. The actual cost of inaction is more than the cost of action right now, so we need more health care funding. I want to make sure our hospitals in the Upper Peninsula are getting what they need, as well as northern lower Michigan.”

The Senator has also been trying to get extra pay for those essential workers who are putting their health on the line day after day.

“We have folks we call essential works, that are required to go to work, whether it’s in the hospital or the nursing home or the prison or the Veteran Affairs facility or maybe they are delivering mail or groceries or doing other really important work that allows those of us who can work at home,” said Senator Stabenow.

“So, it’s important to say thank you to them and we’ve all done that, but I think it’s not enough. They need hazard pay. They also are folks that are trying to pay the bills and put food on the table and I think right now, just as in the military where folks go into danger zones, they get additional pay, I think that’s what we should be doing. There’s a group of us focused on what we call “heroes pay” and I think that absolutely essential to pass as soon as possible.”

Senator Stabenow reported that behavioral health centers were already overworked and underfunded, and now are struggling with the massive increase for critical services during this pandemic.

She said it still what needs to be done to adequately address mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even before COVID-19, we have not had enough in-patient mental health beds and we have not had enough funding for community services, so I’ve been able to put in demosion an effort to increase community mental health, which is very important. We still have a ways to go on what needs to happen for in-patient beds.”

Senator Stabenow said the COVID-19 virus has taken a major toll on people’s mental health, not just the public, but those essential workers as well.

“I’ve talked to folks that are working in our hospitals, our nurses aids, may have a form of PTSD because the stress is so difficult for them and they are dealing with so many people that are losing their lives, so we have to do more in terms of resources and I also think we have to support people and understand that any of us in our life can need mental health help, it’s health and should be treated like any other kind of health care and so, what we’ve got to do is really make sure that when we fund health care, we’re funding health care, including mental health.”

For those who live in rural areas, Stabenow said it can be difficult to access the proper health facilities, which could make the fight against the latest coronavirus difficult for the aging population. A population which is at an increased risk of complications of COVID-19.

“Fortunately, we’ve not seen this yet, but we could where we have a lot of cases come in and the hospital is just not able to handle it and then they will have to quarantine their own staff, which would lead to shutting the hospital down. We’ve gotta make sure the funding is there, we also need to make sure the protective gear is there.”

Senator Stabenow said that improving internet access across the Upper Peninsula would help those in rural areas. She believes we are moving in the direction of Telehealth and having that internet access would connect patients with doctors who are not easily accessible.

“As somebody whose lived in Michigan my whole life, there’s nothing more beautiful in the Upper Peninsula, and I’m talking about all four seasons. I’m looking forward to continue to partner with the universities, schools, hospitals, health centers, small businesses, and everybody. We’ll get through this. It’s very tough, but we’re Michigan tough and we’ll get through it.”

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